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When Mary Dickey and her husband, Walter, purchased 13 acres of the former Lueth farm in 1975, it was just turning 100. Mary’s mother cried; Walter’s father told the couple to “light a match.” Instead, for the past four decades, the couple has worked to transform the property, razing crumbling outbuildings, removing invasive plant species, remodeling the old farmhouse and large barn, and restoring the land to its natural, prairie woodland state.

“Anything you see growing here we put in,” Dickey said. “We do a little bit over time. Then we raised two boys, and I probably didn’t do as much then.”

Now, the peaceful oasis the Dickey’s have been enjoying more than 40 years will be open for visitors June 23, as part of several landowners participating in a garden tour.

Put on by River Arts, Inc., Garden Thyme is the fourth tour of its kind the organization has hosted.

River Arts Inc. Executive Director Lindsey Giese said a group of passionate gardeners who belong to River Arts suggested Giese look into having a garden tour.

“Through these ladies I have learned there really is an art to gardening,” Giese said. “And it seemed like there was a desire for something like this and was something missing in the community. We were a good fit to be the host.”

The tour will feature six gardens at residences throughout Sauk City, Prairie du Sac and Mazomanie, and a stop to Phil’s Woods – a parcel of land featuring 37 acres of woods and meadow.

The Dickey’s yard features a small pond with water lilies, a spot for relaxing in a hammock hidden under grapevines, sprawling native prairie, and a host of plantings and smaller gardens including a fairy garden.

Dickey, who is an artist, has a large mosaic piece nestled into a hill on the property called “A Call to Beauty,” which was originally created for Reedsburg’s Fermentation Fest many years ago. And, with grandchildren came inspiration: last year the Dickey’s added a beautiful playhouse to the property complete with a patio and loft called The Plum, for the nearby plum trees.

Along the 32 acres comprising Mary and Terry Roach’s land in the Mazomanie/Roxbury area, walking paths have been added for the family and visitors to enjoy. The property sits in a valley with sweeping views of the many small gardens featuring a variety of shrubs, perennials and grasses. The Roach’s have owned the property for seven years, and have never stopped working on it.

“It seems like we’re always doing a project,” Mary Roach said. “It’s truly been a labor of love.”

The property boasts a garden waterfall that trickles down a slope from the main house, a rustic fire pit area, a large pergola and a small out building where a handful of chickens and roosters, two Sicilian donkeys, a potbellied pig, pygmy goats and a sheep make their home, with the Roach’s dog having run of the property. And, like the Dickey’s, the Roach’s property has been adapted for use by grandchildren with a small playhouse.

Dickey has been a member of River Arts Inc. for years, and finally decided after years of urging others to show off their property, it was time to share hers. “I’ve always been part of the committee but my garden had never been a part of the tour,” Dicky said.

For the Roach’s, a friend encouraged them to participate.

“We have had people ask us for permission to take photos on our property before,” Mary Roach said.

“We’d be doing this anyway,” Terry Roach said of the yard work the couple was doing June 9 to prepare for the tour. “So we figured, why not?”

Two ticket options are available for the tour. A self-guided tour costs $10 and a bus tour costs $50, but includes a boxed lunch catered by the Blue Spoon on the grounds of Wollersheim Winery and Distillery.

Giese said ticket holders will receive a brochure and map of the gardens, and a wrist band to get into the tour. Giese said there will also be little surprises at many of the stops as well.

Because River Arts Inc. wants to do other big events in coming years, Giese said this will likely be the last garden tour for a while.

“It’s not that the tours aren’t desirable,” Giese said. “We are just doing so many things; it’s hard to do them all. But I’d never say never to anything. We know what the community wants.”

Follow Autumn Luedke on Twitter @Apwriter1 or contact at (608) 393-5777

Reporter, Sauk Prairie Eagle